Sunday, March 27, 2011

Praxis: Excellent Short History of USGI Field Mess Gear: Haversacks, Buttpacks, Canteens, Cups, Meat Cans, etc. plus other combat equipment resources.

Current issue MOLLE Equipment.

The modern militiaman is equipped and accoutered with what gear he has inherited, picked up at surplus stores or brought back from the various wars of the 20th and 21st Century.

As evidenced by some reaction to my posts on pistol belts
here and here, there are a number of folks who, through no fault of their own, could benefit from a short course on the history and usage of US military field gear.

This is an excellent place to start.

Longer, more comprehensive but still well worth the read is David Cole's 2007 Survey of U.S. Army Uniforms, Weapons and Accoutrements. Cole writes:

The Survey of U.S. Army Uniforms, Weapons and Accoutrements is an expanded version of the classes on uniforms, field equipment and small arm given at the Basic Curatorial Methods Training Course held at the U.S. Army Medical Museum, Fort Sam Houston, Texas in August 2007.

The purpose of this study is to provide a quick reference for the identification of the basic uniforms, accoutrements and small arms used by the American soldier from the period of the American Revolution to the operations in Iraq and Afghanistan all in one source, rather than in seven or eight different books or websites.

Obviously to the modern militiaman putting together a fighting set of "web gear", almost everything prior to the mid-Twentieth Century is of historical interest only, but still there are tricks. For example, take this War Between the States soldier.

Note that he has his cartridge box slung over his shoulder, but secured beneath his waist belt. This is to keep his cartridge box from flapping excessively or shifting out of place. Soldiers often did the same with their haversacks or canteens, tucked under the belt on the other side. (The knife and revolver stuck in the belt are photographer's props, meant to make the soldier look more war-like to the folks back home.)

Today we have fellows who intend to fight light like this young man.

Note the homemade M-14 magazine bandoleer, crafted by his mother from a pattern derived by deconstructing a four pocket M16 bandoleer, but assembled out of stouter woodland cloth and with the addition of fastex buckles on each flap. Now if this young man had a slung two-quart USGI canteen (or some other water bottle) on the other side, he would find, like the 19th Century soldier above, that a simple waist belt would hold them both in place rather well when running. He could then put his extra bandoleer with stripper clips over that. (Yeah, I know he needs a sling for the China Doll. He had one but the fussy photographer made him take the patrol sling off for the purposes of the photograph.)

Another excellent resource is US Army Combat Equipments 1910–88, part of the Osprey Men-at-Arms Series. Written by Gordon L Rottman and illustrated by Ronald Volstad, this little book (Paperback; January 1989; 48 pages; ISBN: 9780850458428) has a wealth of information on the changing nature of US combat equipment from 1910 through to 1988.

It is now out of print, I believe, but you can still find copies now and then at hobby shops, gun shows and used book stores.

Don't forget Field Manual 21-15 as a source,

and my follow-up post containing this link on MOLLE gear.


Anonymous said...

I recently found this site and have purchased many items from it.

It is an excellent source of inexpensive, well-made gear, and it is well worth a few moments to check it out.

Some examples:
Molle double pistol mag pouch (new as surplus) - around $5
Bianchi M12 pistol holster (new as surplus) - around $25 (less than 5O% of retail)
Mil surplus ECWS sleep system (Excellent condition) - $99
1250 7.62 once-fired brass - $125
2350 5.56 once-fired brass - $125

The conditions listed above are my observations on as received items.

Crustyrusty said...

Notice that our fighters in the photos have all their gear on the SIDE. Mounting all your stuff in front results in varied amounts of pain when you hit prone, which you will have to do 95% of the time, unless all you do is clear buildings for a living. I speak from uncomfortable personal experience.

Walter Zoomie said...

Yeah...and it's a real bitch if you're a skinny fucker like me. The cartridge belt never seemed to be long enough. Two canteens, two mag pouches, a first aid kit, a butt pack, a bayonet, a K-bar, an E-Tool, and a gas mask strapped on over a flak jacket I missing anything? All that crap hanging off of me meant some of it was gonna get mashed when I went prone.

I sometimes envied the bigger dudes who seemed to always have more room to hang more shit off their web gear...

I ended up jettisoning some of this non-essential crap and lashing it to my ALICE pack.

Cold war hard...